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Pharaohs gearing up for ACN qualifier
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 05 - 09 - 2010

CAIRO-The Pharaohs will be hosting Sierra Leone tonight in Cairo at 9:30 in the African Cup of Nations (ACN) qualifiers, hoping that they can get their campaign off to a winning start.
This will be the first encounter between the two nations in decades.
Little has been heard of the Sierra Leonean team …quot; the closest they have
ever come to winning the ACN was when they qualified for the tournament in 1994 and 1996, being eliminated in the first round on both occasions.
Sierra Leone's greatest footballing feat was when they won the Amilcar
Cabral Cup (a football tournament for Zone 2 West African nations) in 1993 and 1995. Since 1996, the country hasn't qualified for the ACN or won any silverware.
In preparation for meeting Egypt, Sierra Leone's Coach Christian Cole has summoned a 15-man foreign-based squad, including AC Milan youngster Rodney Strasser; Kei Kamara (Kansas City Wizards); Mohamed Kamara (Partizan Belgrade); Mohamed Bangura (Swedish Champions AIK Solna); Gibrilla Sankoh (Germany's Augsburg); and Albert Jarrett (Lincoln City).
The dreams of many Sierra Leoneans rest on these few, who will be up against Egypt, the most successful nation in the history of African football.
They won the first ACN tournament, hosted by Sudan in 1957. They also hosted and won the following tournament in 1959. And since then Egypt have won the trophy in 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
In January 2010, Egypt set a new record for not being defeated in 19
consecutive ACN matches. They also won their ninth consecutive match,
beating Ghana in the finals and becoming the first team to win three
consecutive ACN titles.
It is thought that the match tonight between the Pharaohs and Sierra Leone will reignite collaboration between the two countries in sports. Many Sierra Leoneans have played professional football in Egypt.
Sierra Leone's squad arrived in the Cairo Airport yesterday, and declined to say what they expect from tonight's
game.
Meanwhile, there were chaotic scenes on Friday night, when Egypt's coaching staff members were supposed to attend a press briefing before a late training session, but didn't.
The journalists waiting at Cairo Stadium's training pitch were infuriated, but opted to stay put until the end of the training, hoping that they could have the chance to speak to head coach Hassan Shehata afterwards.
However, assistant coach Shawqi Gharib, skipper Ahmed Hassan and
goalkeeper Essam el-Hadari stepped in instead as reporters, photographers and camera crews jostled for position.
The trio said a few words before rushing to the tunnel, sparking resentment from the media representatives who invaded the pitch in a desperate attempt to interview Egypt's players.
Shehata ordered the players to leave the pitch, further infuriating the attendees.
In tonight's game, key strikers Amr Zaki, Mohamed Zidan and Emad Met'eb will all be missing. Shehata has replaced with Ahmed Ali of Ismaili, Ahmed Abdel-Thaher of Enppi and Harras Al- Hodoud's Ahmed Hassan Mekki, who have all looked good in training.
Gharib, who describes their opponents as an unknown quantity, says Egypt are ready for the game, urging the players to win a fourth title in a row and to qualify the World Cup finals in Brazil
in 2014.
The group also includes South Africa and Niger.
Additional reporting from Adel Moustafa and local newspapers.


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